Ep 1: How to Build Back Together

Eric Schmidt
September 1, 2020
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August 25, 2020

Ep 1: How to Build Back Together

Eric Schmidt speaks with Secretary-General António Guterres about how COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of our global system.

This is one of the most vulnerable moments in the UN history but also perhaps, the pandemic offers the UN one of the most important opportunities to redefine itself in the next generation. Mr. Guterres has served as the Secretary-General for the United Nations since 2017, so for three years. He's a former Prime Minister of Portugal and of course, was the UN High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015. So, he's earned stripes at the UN.

Even before COVID-19, countries that were already pulling away from global cooperation, the pandemic has deepened those divides at the time when collaboration is most needed at least in my opinion. Mr. Guterres joins me today to discuss how we can unite the international community to help those most in need and how exceptional young people can be central to that work.

Episode Transcript

Antonio Guterres (00:00):

I'm not able to imagine how the world will be in 30 years time, but we need to prepare it now. I mean, we will need a completely different set of social protection systems. We will need completely different education. I mean, we still have education that teaches people a lot of things. We don't need to be taught so many things. We need to be, to learn how to learn and to learn how to adapt. And, uh, many of our education systems are not yet there.

Eric Schmidt (00:32):

The coronavirus pandemic is a global tragedy. But it's also an opportunity to rethink the world, to make it better faster for more people than ever before. I'm Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google and now co-founder Schmidt Futures. And this is Reimagine, a podcast where trailblazing leaders imagine how we can build back better.

Eric Schmidt (00:58):

Even before COVID-19, the world was in the midst of an unprecedented demographic and technological change. Population growth in developing countries is ushering in a new geography of human needs and pressures. Climate change and regional conflict are fueling mass migration. And on top of that, the two largest global powers, the United States and China are no longer cooperating with each other as they once did leading some to wonder if we're on a path to a new and protracted period of conflict, when it could potentially resemble the cold war where the United States and China turned from partners into adversaries, it doesn't have to be this way.

Eric Schmidt (01:47):

That's why I'm so excited to kick off this podcast with a conversation with United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who joins me by phone from his home in Portugal. Before his time leading the UN, he served as UN High Commissioner for refugees. And before that, as the Prime Minister of Portugal. In our discussion, Secretary General Guterres points out that the world is extremely fragile right now and not prepared for many of the growing challenges of the 21st century.

Eric Schmidt (02:15):

The Secretary General is the perfect person to help reimagine our world because under his leadership, the UN has placed in particular focus on enabling young people to play larger and more impactful roles on the global stage. I also strongly believe that finding and empowering talented young people across the world is an essential part of any effort to build a better world.

Eric Schmidt (02:35):

In our conversation, we cover the growing rift between the United States and China, the global refugee crisis, the opportunity and threat of new technologies like artificial intelligence and the need to elevate the influence of women and young people around the world. Mr. Secretary General, thank you for being here.

Antonio Guterres (02:54):

It's a great pleasure to be here with you.

Eric Schmidt (02:56):

Now, in, in your writings and talking, you have been very concerned about the fragility of the world today. Why is the world fragile? How do we solve this?

Antonio Guterres (03:08):

Well, we have some microscopic entity, not the virus, and we are on our knees with a microscopic virus. We have no real capacity to control it effectively. And this is a virus that transmits itself easily, but within a relatively low rate of mortality. If you look at Ebola, we have, uh, another pandemic, uh, at hand, another epi- epidemic, uh, uh, with, uh, with, with Ebola. Ebola, uh, is more difficult to transmit, but level of mortality is extremely high.

Antonio Guterres (03:50):

If as imagined that all of a sudden we have virus with the mortality rates of Ebola and the capacity to transmit itself as the COVID-19, the world is totally unprepared for that. And we have a fragility not on relation to pandemics, we have a fragility relation to climate change. We have not been able to have a global strategy able to defeat climate change. We slowly losing that war and I hope we'd be able reverse it.

Antonio Guterres (04:10):

But if you're losing that war, uh, in an area that you know much better than me, uh, in the cyber space, uh, we have a certain lawlessness and we have a number of risks that is very difficult to confront, uh, um, at the same time the risk of nuclear proliferation is already there again, uh, for the first time since several decades. And so we are extremely fragile. And the methods of governance we have are extremely limited. And that is why I believe that, uh, uh, fragility requires humility.

Antonio Guterres (04:40):

So I believe world leaders need to be humble and need to understand that solidarity and unity are absolutely essential, not only to defeat COVID-19, but, uh, to have effective climate action, to have, uh, uh, the, to use the full potential of technological evolution. And at the same time, uh, to address, uh, the other challenges that our societies face, the inequalities problems, the problems of, uh, uh, social protection networks that have proven also to be, uh, rather ineffective in many parts of the world. Uh, and, uh, um, the, the risks to peace and security that have been spreading with terrorism, with organized criminality and others.

Antonio Guterres (05:23):

We need, uh, more unity, more solidarity and more effective multilateral institutions with more governance capacity than the ones we have now.

Eric Schmidt (05:34):

You know, it's interesting that the United Nations does some of the most profound population predictions and studies in the world. And the United Nations forecasts a rise of two or three billion, more people over the next 100 years. And much of that growth is in Asia and in Africa. And when I looked at the countries where the growth will occur, many of those countries are, shall we say the least well governed, the more unstable, the more fragile institutions. Do you have a model of how that part of the world will grow and then China versus America? In other words, how does the tension between China and America play out while the rest the grow, world is growing so quickly in population?

Antonio Guterres (06:19):

I would separate them, for these are two things before bringing them together. First, I'm very worried with the presence of trends of relations between China and United States. Uh, if you remember, the Paris Agreement was only possible because Obama, Xi Jinping were able to come together. And it will be practically impossible to have a concerted global action to the in the world, uh, in relation to a pandemic, in relation to climate change, in relation to all the other problems that we face if China and the United States are not able to work together.

Antonio Guterres (06:52):

With all the differences they have, different systems, different mentalities, different views, different cultures, but the, the truth is that they are both too big to be left living against each other. Now, the truth is, uh, that what we are witnessing now is a risk of what I call a big factor in which we might move into two economies, uh, with two sets of rules, with, uh, two dominant currencies, with two Internets, uh, with two, uh, opposed strategies in the development of artificial intelligence for instance, and, uh, inevitably, uh, with two, um, uh, geostrategic and military, uh, uh, developments that's, uh, can risk confrontation.

Antonio Guterres (07:40):

We are all aware of the so-called Thucydides's Trap. Uh, if I remember well the sentence of Thucydides is where, it was the rise of Athens, and the fear that their previous in Sparta that's made war inevitable. I don't think war inevitable. There is, by the way, a book that has proven it is not inevitable.

Antonio Guterres (07:56):

But I think the two countries need to understand that the world cannot afford these divides. We need one global economy, with one set of rules, we need uh, uh, one internet. Uh, we need to be all interconnected. And we need to be able to find forms of compromise in the differences that exists. Uh, and, uh, uh, it is obvious that those differences exist. They need to be overcome, but with the sense of compromise, understanding that we have different systems, but then understanding that there's no way we can defeat the challenges that the world faces if the two countries do not cooperate.

Eric Schmidt (08:36):

We've benefited from globalization in so many ways. If the world de-globalizes, if we go back to our historic nationalistic tendencies, in addition to the obvious threat of war and real terrible human conflict and disaster, a lot of things stop working. All those products that you get that were inexpensive, go up in price, all that sense of global community and the humanity that we all share begins to tumble down into the traditional evils of how our globe put itself together.

Antonio Guterres (09:11):

It is more dangerous in my opinion than the previous cold war between, uh, uh, the Soviet Union and the, the, the United States. Uh, as we know, um, how many important mechanisms were put in place at that time to avoid a major confrontation even if the separation, of course, the ideological separation was dramatic.

Antonio Guterres (09:31):

So I am a strong believer that we need to have a functional relationship, China and the United States in the respect of their differences. And I believe that there can be, uh, an instrument for a world that I hope will not only be a world of China and the United States domination, but also a world in which we will move into a multipolarity because we have European Union, we have India that is emerging. We have Japan, we have other countries. And I think it will be useful to have a network of a multipolar, uh, uh, a multipolar world with multilateral forms of governance.

Antonio Guterres (10:09):

Uh, I would remind you that Europe before the first world war was multipolar, but in the absence of multi forms of, multilateral forms of governance, the result was the first world war. So we need to have not only a true multipolarity, but an effective multilateral governance in some key aspects of world affairs.

Antonio Guterres (10:28):

And that will be the only way, in my opinion, to have a strategy able to address the dramatic North-South divide. And the, the fact that the North-South divide will be accentuated by the demographic change, with the north having a, a more and more, um, elderly population and in some times, in some conditions, the shrinking population. And the south or part of the South Africa is indeed the, the most, uh, obvious, but also some parts of Asia with, uh, the risk of a demographic explosion, for which, uh, the, the countries are not prepared.

Antonio Guterres (11:04):

Migration will be needed and we need to manage it with international cooperation. So that we need the institutions and the mechanisms that are necessarily for that. And that is why it's so important that, uh, China and United States and others create world order in which international corporation prevails.

Antonio Guterres (11:20):

And then we need to have a, a development corporation organized in a way that takes human mobility into account and creates the conditions for more effective opportunities in the global south. And there the, one of the obstacles we need to overcome is the obstacle you mentioned, the governance obstacle, the bad governance that exist in many of the parts of the world. And this is one reason more for a concerted effort, um, of all international institutions to support reforms, uh, in those countries for those countries to be able to overcome their governance problems, their problems of corruption, their problems of conflict, their vulnerabilities of different sorts, and be able to be part of a...

Antonio Guterres (12:03):

Accountabilities of different sorts, and be able to be part of an international order where they can, uh, play, uh, a role in a positive way. But these are challenges that are there. And, again, it's, uh, we need to recognize opportunity. We do not yet have the instruments to deal with this problem, and the risk of a confrontation between the two blocks I mentioned, accentuated by a North-South divide, that would be a dramatic factor of instability is there. And this should force us to be humble and, as I said, to bet on unity and solidarity, to bet on building the multipolar world with, uh, meaningful multilateral forms of governance and shared sovereignty wherever it is needed.

Eric Schmidt (12:46):

There's a lot of concern that a G2 would mean that one of the two, United States or China, would have pretty much unilateral advantage over areas and of regional power. President Trump recently said that the future does not belong to globalist but rather to patriots. In the, um, the meetings that I have with Chinese, they're very, very concerned that America is trying to hold them back to, it's sort of a repeat of the Boxer Rebellion for Chinese. And Americans, as you know, have great concerns about Chinese, the way Chinese treat their internal citizens, um, and various other things that the Chinese government is doing, including surveillance. When we build back the world, when we de-globalize and then re-globalize, we've got to re-globalize in a way that's more fair and creates more opportunities for people. The technology is present to allow us to empower billions of people with new learning paradigms, new businesses, new ways of making money, new ways of entertaining themselves.

Eric Schmidt (13:46):

The option of using them and empowering them at each and every level is in front of us. If we do it, imagine the creativity of all the people in Africa who are getting connected that we've not heard from yet. Imagine all the talent that we'll find globally that will invent the next solution to a disease or perhaps the pandemic or the next pandemic. The opportunity and the power of human potential is always underestimated. We focus on institutions and we focus on conflict when we should focus on human potential. Is there a mechanism that you foresee that could bridge this? Given that everything is devolved, it's hard for me to see when it starts to recouple again.

Antonio Guterres (14:28):

But let's start by what's probably the, the simplest area. That's right. Look, um, er, China joined the World Trade Organization and, er, China benefited, uh, when joining the World Trade Organization of its status with the developing country. And so, in many areas, uh related to trade itself, but also into intellectual property, and to, uh, er, other technological questions, China adds preferential treatment. It is clear to me, uh, that, uh, uh, it would have been possible if United States, the European Union, Japan, and other countries recognizing that, and in a united Way, could, uh, talk to the Chinese and say, "Look, time has changed. Now you have a potential that is different. Let's look into the rules of the game, and let's adapt the rules of the game to the present reality. And we need to accept a number of changes."

Antonio Guterres (15:21):

And I, I felt in my contacts with the Chinese, that they were ready to recognize these, and they will be ready to make those changes. To a certain extent, some of them will even announce, um, er, er, episodes and moments. Now the problem is that instead of these efforts and, uh, using the World Trade Organization as a platform for these efforts, er, the United States, as, uh, er, unilateral strategy, uh, uh, of negotiation with China, that, uh, to a certain extent, er, er, uh, apparently is conducted to, uh, uh, a stalemate. Uh, and, and these efforts to look into the rules and to look into what would be, er, a more fair, uh, uh, uh, set of rules taking into accounts the present realities, in which all would come together.

Antonio Guterres (16:03):

This, uh, uh, did not happen, but I think it can happen in the future. Now then you have the technology part. The technology part is probably more difficult. Artificial Intelligence is a, is a, is a- is, is, is key, in my opinion.

Antonio Guterres (16:14):

I think the world cannot afford to have to tell you both strategies of developing artificial intelligence aiming at using this against each other. I think artificial intelligence is a fantastic tool we have for the future, but it can be an enormous risk for our collective future if you are not able to have international cooperation in relation to artificial intelligence. And this is one more reason that I hope will make, uh, people, uh, in the future and, again, our directors need to combine their efforts to be able to overcome the present differences that, uh, uh, in my opinion, um, are suicidal if they are not addressed.

Eric Schmidt (16:47):

One of the things that you've talked about is that there is a logic of confrontation in the political systems. And it seems to me that this is the first time humanity has had a common enemy. One enemy that affects everyone in the world, regardless of country, race, and so forth. And yet, if you look at China and the United States, instead of working together to solve what is essentially a common problem, both systems have become more, more opposed to each other, uh, during the last year or so. How do we bridge that gap?

Antonio Guterres (17:21):

But I think that the- the present moment is particularly difficult. Uh, we have, uh, China, um, er, er, that is, is facing, as we all know, a number of, uh, complex challenges and, uh, some of them, um, uh, with the- uh, uh, a huge, uh, uh, impact globally, and we have the US in an electoral period. So, I'm not very hopeful about the immediate future, but I believe that the time will come in which, uh, the two countries will be able to understand that, uh, er, as I mentioned, independently of their divisions, they have a vital interest to cooperate. And, er, and here, I believe that other blocks have a role to play. I think that the European Union has a role to play, uh, to help bring them together.

Antonio Guterres (18:06):

I think that, uh, Japan, uh, uh, has, has a role to play. Other Asian, uh, Asian, ASEAN, where, if you talk- we, er, er, if you talk with Singapore, uh, politicians and, er, er, Singaporeans are, you know, uh, er, able to manage their country in a very effective way. Singaporeans are extremely worried with these divides, and extremely interested in bridging the divide, and, er, uh, we see the same in several other countries of Southeast Asia. So, it's my belief that we need to have a concerted effort. It's not enough to have the dialogue between the two presidents. It's not enough. Let's hope the political, internal political movement in both countries is facilitated.

Antonio Guterres (18:44):

But then I think we need to engage, uh, all the other, uh, relevant, uh, uh, the- er, all the other relevant, uh, uh, um, I mean, um, er, experts in the world in order to make sure that, uh, uh, the two, uh, biggest economies or the two biggest countries, uh, are a-able to cooperate. Uh, if one looks, uh, at the continent like Africa, it doesn't make any sense that, uh, uh, there is not convergence in the way to support Africa. Uh, if one looks at, uh, um, the climate change, there is no way we can address climate change without a leadership, both from the US and China. There is no way we can do it if the two countries do not cooperate.

Antonio Guterres (19:24):

So, uh, my hope is, uh, as, uh, uh, time, uh, moves and the things change, because nothing is eternal, and that my hope is that there will be a political environment that will be more, um, I would say, conducive, uh, to, uh, a meaningful dialogue. And that the other actors will also be able to play that role. Uh, er, Europe has also been rather divided yet the Brexit and Aussie. But I believe the opinion still has a key role to play as the bridge, uh, uh, in this regard, uh, and, uh, um, obviously, uh, a vital interest not to allow the world to move into a G2 that might lead to a G0 if the two are not able to, um, cooperate with each other.

Eric Schmidt (20:10):

We have all benefited by the many forces of integration, tolerance, and building the world in one way, in a way that benefits everybody. As we step by step breaks the bonds of globalization, as we make it harder for people to travel and to communicate, as we make the communication systems incompatible with each other, the cost is much greater than it appears. Because without human understanding, we fall into our own views of each other, which ultimately leads to conflict, prejudice, and even war. I want to switch and talk a little about the work you've done on inequality. In the last decades, we've seen an improvement in the Status of Women largely because we started to educate them globally. And educated woman, ultimately, is more revenue for the town and for the country and so forth. There's a lot of reasons to think that educating women who've been very oppressed, um, is part of the core strategy. Where are we now in terms of inequality? And what do we need to do to make it, make the world more equal for all sexes, all races, and so forth?

Antonio Guterres (21:17):

Well, having been, uh, a politician for the largest part of my life, I tend to be biased. And to see things, uh, uh, uh, uh, largely based on a question of power. And I think that, indeed, we live in a male-dominated world still with a male-dominated culture still. And, so, uh, I think that the central question here is a question of, uh, power transfer. Er, now, uh, usually people are, er, er, difficult to give power. Uh, usually, power needs to be taken. And so, uh, uh, um, uh, I- I usually do not use the expression empowerment of women because it looks that we are giving power to women, uh, er, but I, uh, I think that, uh, er, uh, what is essentially to help create the conditions for women to have a position of power, uh, that will, uh, uh, allows, uh, a number of changes to take place. And here, my battle within the UN is a battle for parity. We reached parity now. Um, about 90 women and 90 men in the senior management of UN. We reach parity in, uh, our coordinators, the- the UN activities, uh, in, uh, the- the countries where the UN operates in developing world, essentially.

Antonio Guterres (22:33):

Uh, er, we, uh, are- We have, uh, a- a plan to reach parity until 2028 at all levels. And, of course, the most difficult situations are the field situations, namely in conflict areas. So, another aspect which is related to business, I mean, everything that needs to- everything that can be done to support women that leads businesses and to have women with a made bigger and bigger role, uh, uh, as entrepreneurs and a bigger and bigger presence, parity again, in the boards of companies is I think extremely important. And things are moving in that direction.

Antonio Guterres (23:10):

I think there is no reason for women not to be, er, exactly at the same level of power of men. And I'm very hopeful that the impact that education as, uh, introduced linked with the changes that are necessary with the political systems, and, uh, in the business community. That definitely leads, um, uh, uh, the 21st century to be the center where gender equality is fully, uh, uh, fully reached.

Eric Schmidt (23:35):

I completely agree. Last year, we made a very significant commitment financially to try to find the very best talent globally, and get them educated, and we call it RISE. I'm very much convinced young people will be the solution to this problem. If we can identify the truly great human leaders of the future, the smartest, the most empathetic, the quickest, the best writers, the best...

Eric Schmidt (24:03):

... smartest, the most empathetic, the quickest, the best writers, the best thinkers, and develop them, especially in countries where they typically don't have access to systems that we can make a huge difference. In other words, the way you solve these pe- these problems was with more capable people in the right places, where you solve the governance problems is you have people there who know how to lead, and ultimately hope. We hope that this will contribute to the leadership and quality of the world.

Eric Schmidt (24:28):

In our case, we're going to work with multilateral institutions, governments, businesses, nonprofits, schools, sports leagues, anyone who can help us reach the kind of people that we're looking for. Do you have an opinion as to how we can reach the top people everywhere? I'm worried that we, if we go to one group, we'll get a sliver, we'll get the elitist group as opposed to the broad talent that is available globally in every country and distributed across both sexes.

Antonio Guterres (24:56):

I think we must give people opportunities to express themselves, uh, and to act when discussing our own strategy relation to youth. We have now a new strategy for youth. And, um, uh, it was clear to me that political systems and international organizations, uh, in the beginning wouldn't care at all about youth. Not, and then they will, they will care about educational systems, but they wouldn't care the, the, about youth and about what the young people would think or would, uh, uh, or what would be their contribution, uh, to the decision making systems.

Antonio Guterres (25:33):

Then we have a moment in which people understood that youth was important. And so politicians and organizations tapped into communicate with youths by talking to them. Telling youth what, uh, what youths should do. And I think now we need to move. And we are trying, we are doing our best in the UN to move to a system in which we are on the listening mode and we give them opportunities to express themselves.

Antonio Guterres (25:58):

And if we give them opportunity to express themselves, we discover fantastic people, with fantastic ideas and fantastic realities in namely, even in the business community we see young leaders doing, uh, uh, especially in, uh, in the area where Google is, is, so, so relevant we see lots of young people doing fantastic things.

Antonio Guterres (26:20):

So for me, it's a question of opening the space for them to talk and for them to act. And accept young people in our decision making processes. Not only that we listen to them, but that we accept their participation. Networks of young people within companies, networks of young people within the UN, where we have our own networks. Networks of young people in political systems of all kinds, more young people in parliament, more young people, uh, in the decision making, uh, processes of all kinds in the society is I think essential.

Antonio Guterres (26:54):

And these will also be the way in which we'll be able to detect them at all levels. And not only at the, of an elite that is able to, um, to give to their, uh, uh, to, to the, to the youth, um, opportunities because they have a better education or because they, uh, they can to a certain extent to be associated with the systems of power, uh, with the forms of nepotism that unfortunately still exist in many of our societies.

Antonio Guterres (27:18):

So I think it's open space. Uh, uh, when we are commemorating now the 70th anniversary instead of making propaganda about the UN, we decided to have a large, uh, uh, open space for people to tell us what they think. Uh, so we have a survey that now has 230, uh, uh, 230, um, um, uh, 230,000, um, sorry, 230,000,000, uh, uh, uh, responses. Uh, we have, uh, from all over the world about the future, about what they want. I'd see the, the international organizations working.

Antonio Guterres (27:53):

We, uh, uh, we organized, we have 5,000 partners with which, with whom we organized different discussions everywhere, but putting ourselves in the position of we want to listen. What do you think about world's problems? What do you think about the future of, uh, um, international corporation? What are the big challenges that you face? What are your major aspirations? And I have to say I'm very surprised. Young people is much more cosmopolitan than my generation. And this is a source of hope in relation to, uh, the capacity to address global challenges and the defeat of nationalism and populism that's essential, you know, our political systems.

Antonio Guterres (28:32):

And young people is, uh, first of all, much more able to use the digital instruments, uh, uh, not only to communicate, but to act and, uh, and much more adaptive to the new forms of, uh, uh, decision making. So, um, I'm very optimistic about the contribution of the new generation to the changes necessarily in our political systems, in our multilateral institutions, and also in our business communities.

Antonio Guterres (28:58):

I think that there is a wind blowing in the right direction and whatever Google can do, whatever other can do to, uh, invest in young people in their education and in their integration, in the labor markets, in the business community, is I think absolutely vital.

Eric Schmidt (29:17):

The bad news I think, I agree with your optimism. The bad news is that if you look at China, China is facing enormous problems for its youth going forward because of economic growth. In the United States, the ge- young generation may be the first generation not to live better than before. If you look at in Europe and in Brexit, many, uh, Europeans and British people are worried that the dream of integrated Europe, uh, is going to escape them. COVID is going to damage the global structure of many of the developing countries. And the markets will be much more suppressed for many years. How long do you think before your optimistic view will come back?

Antonio Guterres (29:58):

Optimism can not be a blind thing. Optimism requires action. Um, uh, even looks at today's world and even looks at the technological revolution we are witnessing, and nobody can understand it better than you and Google. That it is clear that we will need some fundamental changes in the way societies are organized. Um, labor markets, uh, will change dramatically, the relationship between work, leisure and other activities will change.

Antonio Guterres (30:28):

And, uh, it is for me inevitable that, uh, the way societies function, uh, will be extremely impacted by technology. Now, the point is, even looks for instance, is the number of hours people work. Um, that historically, there has been a permanent reduction of the number of hours people work until, uh, the last decades. And then everything stagnated.

Antonio Guterres (30:55):

It's my belief that in 20 or 30 year times, we will need much less time of what we now call work, but we will need to have another number of activities that we cannot give any visits now, because technology will provide us with lots of new things, uh, to do that can be useful, but that are different from what we call now work.

Antonio Guterres (31:15):

And so the problem that we are now having in which labor markets are suffering with the impact, the common impact of globalization and, uh, even if globalization is being put into question, but it's still there. And technological evolution. The fact that, uh, we are trying to react to that with all sets of instruments and without understanding the needs of societal change that, uh, this technological evolution, uh, uh, uh, brings with it, um, that is why we are having these problems of increased unemployment in young people, uh, difficulties, uh, difficulties in the lower middle classes, uh, creating these, uh, huge mistrust and anger that leads to populism in several areas of the world. But, yeah, we need to reinvent the society and we need to reinvent the work and we need to reinvent the way business and other activities are interlinked. One of the dramas is that most of our political leaders have not a clear picture of how fast things are moving. And all these changes must be for people to be able to live in harmony in a planet that will be substantially different in 20 or 30 years time.

Antonio Guterres (32:27):

So, I mean, uh, to be optimistic, we need to do a massive investment in a change of mindset, uh, in those that are, uh, responsible for decision making at all levels and, uh, in the population as a whole. Uh, to build the kind of society in which we take full profits of the new technologies, the new inventions, the, and the new, uh, social relations and make a better world, but a different world from the present one. And political systems will also have to adapt. And the international organizations like the UN will also have to adapt.

Antonio Guterres (33:03):

Uh, we need to be much more, uh, for instance, if you look at most of the multilateral organizations are still intergovernmental organizations, now governments have no longer the monopoly of political power and the monopoly of political action. Uh, we need to have an institutional presence of cities. We need to have an institutional presence of businesses, of young people, of, of civil society in the way multilateral institutions work and in the way political systems work.

Antonio Guterres (33:29):

I mean, those that keep their mindsets and think that they can adapt without the measure of transformation, the systems of the past will in, in my opinion, be condensed. And if that prevails then there are no reasons to be optimistic. There are very dramatic reasons to be pessimistic. But, uh, Jean Monnet wa- was one of the fathers of European Union and of Europe. And, uh, that, uh, I mean, when I was younger had a certain influence in my own thinking, he used to say, "I'm not optimistic, I'm not pessimistic, I'm determined." I think we need to be determined to be effectors of change and to trust that people will be able to assume change and to make change possible.

Eric Schmidt (34:10):

You know, for artificial intelligence today, a lot of artificial intelligence work is essentially surveillance, which from a military perspective is probably not destabilizing. However, if the country develops automatic weapons where the AI is being used for targeting and decision making, we could see a very big change in the balance of power and really destabilizing. So we'll need to do something about, uh, about that in some sort of treaty or agreement, or what have you. We just don't want automatic systems that can launch, launch on their own.

Antonio Guterres (34:42):

Well, I've been very vocal in relation to that question. I've been strongly advocating for a global ban on automatic weapons that are able to decide to kill people without human agency, without human accountability. Uh, we are not yet there. Um, there has been some discussion, um, in the headquarter body is in Geneva, but for the moment we have a number of countries that, uh, are reluctant to accept it, uh, namely the US, uh, Russia, and I believe the, also the UK.

Antonio Guterres (35:16):

Uh, my belief is that it is essential to forbid those weapons because if we allow those weapons to develop with the, uh, uh, the risks that they can fall in wrong hands more easily. I mean, we see how things can be hacked today in the world. Those weapons will be very vulnerable to hacking. Um, and that can come, the, so, so the risk of these kinds of weapons to become uncontrolled instruments is much bigger than those in which human agency still, uh, prevails.

Antonio Guterres (35:51):

And so, uh, this is an area where my position tends to be quite radical. I think that the ban is the only way forward. We are not yet there. And I will doing everything I can to make the negotiations moving that direction and I...

Antonio Guterres (36:03):

... everything I can to make the negotiations move in that direction and I talk a lot on the pressure of the civil society and the scientific community on this.

Antonio Guterres (36:09):

We have heard, uh, lots of scientists that have claimed the need to ban these weapons, I think their role is very important, civil society, in general, very important. The business community, I think, can play a relevant role, uh, it is my opinion that in many other areas, what we need are soft forms of, uh, cooperation and, I would say, um, mechanisms in which the different stakeholders, government, the business community, related to, um, the sort of, I mean, artificial intelligence and other digital areas. Um, the science community, then the civil society are able to come together to discuss, uh, to establish some red lines, to establish some protocols, to exchange good practices.

Antonio Guterres (36:58):

I don't think the mechanism of traditional regulation, uh, by international treaties that take a few years to be negotiated and a few years then to be implemented are the way to deal with the most, most of the problems that these new technologies have created. I see much more nimble, flexible, multi-stakeholder approaches to make them move and this was the line of, um, the conclusions of the high level Panel on Digital Cooperation that, uh, I launched and down the roadmap that I presented to the General Assembly.

Antonio Guterres (37:29):

But there are some areas where I believe we need international law, and one of them is, in my opinion, uh, automatic weapons.

Eric Schmidt (37:35):

When you were in charge of the refugees, you were the UN High Commissioner, you saw the enormous desperation that people have. Do you think that COVID-19 will lead to a huge refugee problem and, if so, where?

Antonio Guterres (37:49):

Well, there is a legal definition of refugees that, uh, that is limited to those that are victims of conflict and persecution. But what we are witnessing more and more is forced displacement by other causes, namely by climate change and natural disasters and now, obviously, the pandemic in itself will be a fact of uncontrolled movement.

Antonio Guterres (38:09):

But what is more dramatic for me is the fact that most of the refugees and displaced people, and we are talking about 80 million, that are supported by different UN agencies and different other humanitarian actors around the world, we are talking of 80 million people, not to mention those that are in the flows of regular migration that are taking place also at the same time, uh, in today's world.

Antonio Guterres (38:32):

What is dramatic is that, for these people, um, the risks of an uncontrolled explosion of the pandemic are enormous. Fortunately, many of them have been in more remote areas, fortunately from this point of view, so the pandemic was slow to come to most of the displaced populations. But it's starting to enter in refugee camps, it's starting to enter into the slums of the cities in the developing world where refugees and displaced people tend to concentrate.

Antonio Guterres (39:02):

And there we have, um, health systems that are very fragile and we have, um, circumstances in which hygiene measures are difficult to implement, there is not water available for everybody as we need for our simple gesture of washing our hands that we do all the time during the day, there, it's not possible in many of those areas. Even if there is a big effort by humanitarian agencies to provide water sanitation to those camps and to those slums and, um, and it's difficult also to observe the social distancing in areas that are heavily populated.

Antonio Guterres (39:37):

And so, um, we are working hard, our humanitarian agencies are working very hard in the prevention and in a number of measures to mitigate the impact of the COVID, but the COVID is arriving to those situations and I'm very worried that it can explode in them, as there is a risk of explosion in other areas of the developing world, even without displacement. And we see that, um, I mean, the movement was the first cases were imported from China, then, of course, to Europe, then to the US. But now spreading into the Global South, the situation in Latin America is very worrying, the situation in India is very worrying, the situation in Africa is becoming more and more difficult. And, um, again, in the lack of coordination and in the lack of effective humanitarian support to those more dramatic situations, I'm worried that we could have a devastating impact of the- of the pandemic in the most fragile areas of the world.

Eric Schmidt (40:35):

So, Mr. Secretary-General, I think we need to be determined to follow exactly the prescription that you've offered for a multilateral world that's much more integrated and much more open and resolve the issues that we all feel right in front of us right now. I cannot imagine a stronger leader than yourself for the United Nations at this time and I wish you the very best, we will continue to work with you.

Eric Schmidt (40:58):

Thank you so very much.

Antonio Guterres (41:00):

Thank you very much for this opportunity and also, all the best, especially your initiative in relation to the youth is absolutely central and I hope it can be multiplied by many other actors in the business community and in society, in general, because it is the right way to help us change the world in the right direction. Thank you very much!

Eric Schmidt (41:18):

So, where are we now? We're 20 years into a new century and in the midst of several global transformations unlike anything that's come before. The Secretary-General had many valuable insights on specific opportunities that we have to reimagine a more prosperous world. One of the most powerful visions I took away from our conversation is of a world that, across the board, is more collaborative, more inclusive.

Eric Schmidt (41:46):

I want the world where everybody thought that the world was on a path to continual increased integration, greater understanding of each other, greater respect for each other. The benefit of working together is profound. Other societies invent something, you get the benefit. You invent something, they get the benefit. You get better products, more global solutions.

Eric Schmidt (42:08):

Imagine if one company or one country invented a solution to the virus and didn't make it available to the others. That would be terrible. We have benefited from global integration, global science, and global discovery, and global health, in ways that are immeasurably valuable. I don't want to lose that.

Eric Schmidt (42:28):

I want people to say, "I've had enough of this discord", that I want better integration, better collaboration, better understanding, especially from people who don't understand each other. I want people to actually spend the time and work the issues out.

Eric Schmidt (42:45):

Example after example says that if you get people in a room and you say, "Let's have civil conversations about what we believe, let's figure out what we actually agree on". Amazing how well that works together. We need to build systems that prioritize and reward connectedness and that can tap into the remarkable wealth of global talent scattered around the world.

Eric Schmidt (43:06):

The way I would solve this problem is by insisting that leaders play one level higher. The leaders in every country are falling to the forces of nationalism, they're falling to the local politics and local pressures, which are very real. But we expect better from our leaders, we want a world that's safe, one that's growing, where kids can grow up, people can get married and have children, that healthcare gets better, and that economics improve, and that we're at peace. We need to get there.

Eric Schmidt (43:35):

Many leaders seem to believe that the most important thing is to invent an idea and then push it through without regard to the consequences, they're ideologues. They're sure. The great leaders have a theory, they have a conceptual framework and they adjust their plans based on the facts on the ground. Their principles are correct, but their tactics change based on the reality that they face. And they pivot as they have to, they apologize if they make a mistake. But they drive forward knowing that their core principles are correct.

Eric Schmidt (44:11):

Leaders should aim to cast their nets as wide as possible when it comes to finding and nurturing human potential. We did that at Google with world-changing results. We'll need to do it again in this context to reimagine our future after COVID. And we're doing it already in two important ways at Schmidt Futures through the one billion dollar commitment we've made to elevating talent to serve others and through Rise, a new global program and partnership with the Rhodes Trust, which will identify extraordinary young people from around the world and help them do more to serve others in the course of their lives.

Eric Schmidt (44:42):

Applications for Rise open this fall and you can find more information at Schmidt Futures dot com.

Eric Schmidt (44:48):

Over the rest of the season, we'll search for the biggest ideas by talking with the most insightful thinkers in medicine, government, business, science, and many other fields. I'll ask how we've succeeded, where have we fallen short, and how we can do better moving forward. No one person has the answer to everything, but my hope is that, together, we can reimagine a world that's better.

Eric Schmidt (45:09):

And I mean it when I say together. As the Secretary-General noted, we need to support the voices and work of young people. My philanthropy, Schmidt Futures, is launching a challenge to hear about the ideas and experiences of youth around the world.

Speaker 1 (45:22):

We're putting out a call to the world's students about how to reimagine our post-pandemic world. We call this the Reimagine Challenge 202. As many as 20 of you who submit winning ideas will be eligible to receive up to $25,000 each in scholarship funding, plus $25,000 for your school. We are seeking your ideas on one of two powerful ways to make our world better.

Speaker 1 (45:47):

You can find all the information about judging and how to submit at Reimagine Pod dot com.

Eric Schmidt (45:53):

Next week we'll speak with former commissioner of Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb, about how America failed to prepare for this pandemic and how we can reimagine our health system to be ready for the next one.

Scott Gottlieb (46:07):

We need to make sure we have reserve testing capacity in this country. So I think we should be paying the large commercial labs to develop some reserve capacity that could be used in a national emergency. We do this in other contexts where we, for example, pay companies to maintain domestic manufacturing facilities for vaccines, recognizing a strategic priority. We should also be paying for some reserve testing capacity, knowing that diagnostic testing is essential to the early days of an outbreak, to try and to get control.